Senate bill would punish tech companies who don’t co-operate

Tech companies who refuse to help the law enforcement get passed their encryption could face civil penalties if a bill currently being drafted in the Senate becomes law.

The bill is being drafted by the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The legislation has not yet been made public, but a source close to the talks says that companies who refuse to comply with the government will likely see daily fines.

Under the Bush administration, tech company Yahoo was threatened with daily fines of $250, 000 per-day if they did not comply with the domestic PRISM spying program which was uncovered by Edward Snowden.

This strong-arm legislation was drafted in the aftermath of the Apple Inc. controversy.

The FBI was insisting the Apple help them break into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino terrorists, but Apple refused to write a program to break its own encryption.

Feinstein, one of the authors of the new legislation sided with the FBI and against privacy in that case.

“There is a phone encrypted that could yield additional information,” said Feinstein in February. “And I believe that as a government we have every responsibility and duty to see that Apple provides that information.”

Apple CEO explained how this tool could easily be used by governments to violate privacy rights.

“The FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation,” wrote Apple CEO Tim Cook in a letter to customers. “In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

Dianne Feinstein has often valued “national security” over privacy rights. She sided with the PRISM program under the Bush administration and in 2013 lobbied to make domestic spying legal and permanent.


[Reuters via Yahoo News] [ZDNet] [Irregular Times] [Mercury News]